One of the most comforting things about fall and winter is eating as much soup as possible. I tried this Czech garlic soup or česnečka a year ago in the middle of a chilly winter in Prague and knew I wanted to remake this recipe at home. Now that it's getting colder again, I want to make this comfort soup as much as possible. After consulting with numerous Czech language recipes, this is my version of garlic soup with ingredients readily available to me.
I love Czech food because all dishes are indeed home-cooked comfort food, and there is diversity within the same dish. It carries the same spirit as many traditional home-cooking cultures, such as the one I came from. Every family and cook makes their version of česnečka, and no two will be identical despite similar ingredients.
Czech Garlic Comfort Soup Ingredients
This comfort food has a few simple ingredients that combine to make a tasty dish. When it comes to cooking, there are various forms this soup can take based on how the ingredients are prepared. The recipe below shows you the basic česnečka I created along with suggestions for variations. Remember, every one is different so make sure you adjust this recipe based on how you like!
- Garlic: The star of the show, you will need enough garlic to taste it in the soup. Different styles I've eaten include either minced or sliced garlic. I used sliced garlic for a milder taste, then grated some on top of another bowl for a more garlicky bite.
- Onion: If you dice them, they will slowly melt in the soup, spreading the flavor as it boils.
- Potato: This recipe must include potatoes! You can use as much as you'd like as long as some are in your soup.
- Bacon or Ham: Some classic Czech recipes use only lard to saute the vegetables before adding water to make the soup. This recipe renders fat from bacon, but the traditional recipe recommends ham.
- Unsalted Butter: Instead of oil, this recipe uses butter next to bacon fat to create a flavorful fat for sauteing potatoes, garlic, and onions.
- Chicken Broth or Bullion: I used chicken bouillon with one liter of water for this recipe. Using chicken broth from scratch will create a fattier, more decadent consistency.
- Marjoram: This earthy and mild seasoning, similar to oregano, is the primary seasoning for this soup. Some local recipes have you use fresh marjoram, but this one calls for a dried version since it's easier to find. Some recipes recommend rubbing the marjoram between your hands to elicit more aroma.
- Cumin: Makes the flavor richer and adds more aromatics to the soup.
- Salt: Add based on your preference.
The items below are optional ingredients to add more flavor and bits to your soup. Different variations will use a combination of some of these. Feel free to use the items below or don't! Totally up to you.
- Egg (optional): I opted out of using the egg, but it's a popular addition to this soup. Whisk the egg in a bowl before adding it to the boiling water. Then stir the water with a fork vigorously as you slowly pour in the egg. The movement will create egg ribbons with a texture similar to thin noodles.
- Cheese (optional): Some recipes recommend using an easy-melting cheese such as grated Swiss or Emmental. Another option I used is Camembert because it's milder but doesn't melt as well as the first two.
- Fresh Parsley (optional): Use it as a topping after spooning some Czech garlic soup into a bowl.
- Rye Bread Croutons (optional): The croutons are fantastic toppings to this soup. The toasted tangy taste of the fried bread adds another flavor profile to the soup. See below how to prep the rye bread croutons from scratch.
Croutons Ahead of Time
If you plan to use croutons for your česnečka, prepare them ahead of time. Carefully cube rye bread slices. To avoid squishing the cubes, use a sharp knife or place the bread in the freezer for fifteen minutes before slicing.
Heat butter or neutral oil in a pan, and then add the cubed bread.
Leave the bread pieces to pan fry for about one minute before tossing them around the pan. Then continue to cook for another minute. Repeat these steps two more times until they are crispy.
Set them aside in a strainer to stay crispy while making the soup.
How to Make Garlic Soup
Based on numerous Czech sources, it's essential to saute the potatoes, garlic, and onions in the rendered bacon fat and butter before adding the broth.
So to begin, melt the butter, render the bacon in the same pot, and cook until the bacon browns.
Add the potatoes, onions, and garlic together. Toss them gently in the fat as they cook, so they don't stick to your pot.
Continue cooking and tossing the ingredients on medium-low heat until the onions are soft and transparent.
Add broth, marjoram, cumin and black pepper then bring it to a boil. Then adjust the heat to a low simmer for about twenty minutes.
Tip If you are using chicken bouillion in this comfort food, add about three to four cups of water. Check that your chicken bouillion melts completely and taste test to see if you need an additional bouillion.
Stir occasionally to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom of your pot. You can also taste test during this time, adding your preferred amount of salt and pepper.
Finally, grate one to two cloves of garlic into the soup pot and mix. Adjust the garlic flavor to your taste.
How to Serve
Take a bowl and fill the bottom with as much shredded or chunky cheese as you want. I used chunky cheese in my photos, but I also love using shredded cheese for those irresistible cheese pulls!
Top the česnečka with chopped parsley and croutons.
Wait! To add a punchier taste to this comforting soup, grate some garlic over your hot bowl. If someone doesn't know what they're eating, doing this will definitely tell them!
Have You Tried This Recipe?
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Czech Garlic Soup - Česnečka
- 50 grams bacon sliced (~ 2 slices)
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4-6 cloves garlic, sliced
- ½ onion, diced small
- 1 medium potato, medium diced
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ⅙ teaspoon black pepper powder
- salt, to taste
- 1 liter chicken broth or 10 grams chicken bouillon with 1 liter of water
- 1-2 cloves garlic, grated
- 2 slices rye bread, made into croutons optional
- 1 egg, whisked optional
- melting cheese such as Swiss, Mozzarella, or Camembert optional
- chopped parsley for garnish optional
- Melt butter and pan fry bacon in the same pot on medium heat. About 3-4 minutes.
- Add onions, sliced garlic, and potatoes to the pot stirring gently to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom.
- Once onions are soft and translucent, add marjoram, cumin, chicken broth, and black pepper. Stir then bring to a boil.
- Lower heat to medium low or until you get a low simmer. Simmer for 15 mins.
- Grate one or two cloves of garlic into the pot. Stir it in, then cook for another 5 minutes.
- Taste test and add salt as needed.
- Optional: Use a fork to stir the pot while you slowly pour the whisked egg into the soup to create ribbons of eggs.
- Optional: Add some shredded melting cheese at the bottom of a bowl, then ladle soup on top. Garnish with chopped parsley and croutons.
- Serve immediately
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